Controversy's child: Zaira Wasim is looking for inner peace. Why should we come in her way?
Wasim has suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts. If she seeks peace through religion, why are we judging her? She doesn't have to live life according to our expectations.
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Stand-up comedian Cathy Ladman said, "All religions are the same: Religion is basically guilt with different holidays." At just 18, Zaira Wasim is already a 'former Indian actress' because religion apparently sent her on a guilt trip after she earned critical acclaim in movies such as Dangal and Secret Superstar.
But was it religion alone that led to Wasim calling it quits in a pontificating Instagram post?
It is important to probe a little further to understand how things came to this.
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In 2016, Wasim wowed us in Dangal, as a soft-looking young girl forced into a tough wrestling ring. Following the release of the film, Wasim met former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, leading to a huge row as Mufti described Wasim as a role model. Wasim, then a minor, had to issue an 'open apology' in which she said, "... I want to make it clear that I do not want anyone to follow my footsteps or even consider me as a role model."
A year later, she appeared as the protagonist in Secret Superstar.
In 2017 itself, she alleged that she was molested on a flight en route to Mumbai. She shared an Instagram video in which she spoke about her co-passenger, blaming him for running his foot over her neck and back from his seat behind.
A co-passenger — apart from the wife of the accused — came out in defence of the man saying he was asleep and the touch was unintentional.
A little later, Wasim came out with a Facebook post, going into details about her mental health. She wrote she had been suffering from depression since she was 12 and had had suicidal thoughts. Towards the end of the post, she mentioned she was taking a break from social media.
She ceased to be in the news thereafter, only to emerge on Sunday, June 1, with an Instagram post that generated a huge controversy. In her post, Wasim said that Bollywood came in the way of her imaan (faith).
Scores of people since then have tried to weigh her decision through the prism of religion and the freedom it allows women.
That, however, allows only a partial depiction of reality.
Wasim has been suffering from depression. The pulls and the pressures of the film industry can get overbearing for any individual, more so a child. It is possible the threats of fatwas and social ostracisation she has been facing from fundamentalists in Kashmir also led to her decision but to blame her for letting women down is a little too far-fetched.
Wasim has faced a lot in the 18 winters she has lived. As a kid who suffered suicidal thoughts, all this could be too much to bear. A lot of us seek aids to help us walk past the difficult tides of life. Religion comes in handy for a lot of people looking for peace. Belief acts as the hinge for scores of us to base our lives upon.
Wasim is no different.
Her posts and messages on social media in an apparent bid to clarify her situation have done her more harm than she could have ever imagined. Or wanted.
So much hate flying an 18-year-old's way is not how things should be. Religion doesn't have much to offer in terms of women's empowerment or even recognising women as humans. But what are we offering our young achievers who fail to live up to our ideological expectations?
May Wasim find her peace.
May we find our sanity.